I have translated machine into German. There are three translations for that: »die Maschine«, »das Gerät«, »der Apparat«.

I am studying the difference between them.

  • Maschine

    mechanische, aus beweglichen und unbeweglichen Elementen zusammengesetzte Vorrichtung, die Kraft überträgt oder Arbeitsgänge ganz, auch teilweise selbstständig verrichtet oder Energie aus einer Form in eine andere umwandelt

  • Gerät

    • Bezeichnung für verschiedene Arten von Apparaten, Ausrüstungsgegenständen, Werkzeugen
    • Gesamtheit von Werkzeugen für eine bestimmte Tätigkeit
  • Apparat

    • Gerät, das bestimmte Funktionen erfüllt
    • die zu einer bestimmten größeren Aufgabe benötigten Menschen und Hilfsmittel
    • wissenschaftliches Hilfsmittel

(all quotes from DWDS)

I was thinking about examples, like car, train, cell phone, refrigerator, binoculars, computer mouse, computer, lawn mower, car engine, voltmeter, calculator. Can they fit into one of those categories (Maschine, Gerät, Apparat)?

What is the difference?

  • 3
    Similar in English: machine, device, apparatus, – Takkat Oct 28 '16 at 11:10
  • 1
    Or (judging from your profile): maquina, instrumento, aparato – tofro Oct 28 '16 at 13:00
  • Hmm, can you fit cell phone, train and binocular into one category in English? – Eller Oct 28 '16 at 13:17
  • @Eller: I was trzýing to produce examples so that I can come to a better understanding fo those words – cornejo Oct 28 '16 at 18:17
  • @Takkat: Similar, but certainly not the same. Quite some things called "machine" in English would not normally be called "Maschine" in German, but "Automat". Conversely, in German, the word "Maschine" can be used as a synonym for "airplane", which, to my knowledge, is not the case in English. – O. R. Mapper Oct 29 '16 at 12:47

At the university where I studied (in southern Germany) they teach the engineering students the following definitions:


Some item that has been built to process, store or transmit any kind of information (such as texts, numbers, music, movies, …)


Some item that has been built to perform any kind of chemical reactions


Some item that has been build to handle forces, motion, energy or power

It is important to know that most people not having studied engineering sciences typically do NOT use these definitions and simply mix up these three words!

There are also examples of words in the German language where these definitions obviously do not match:

According to German grammar a Rassierapparat (electric shaver) is a special kind of Apparat (because the word ends with -apparat) although it processes force and energy.

A Rechenmaschine (calculator) is according to the grammar a special kind of Maschine although it processes information.

Gartengeräte (tools used in the garden like a spade or a pitchfork) are obviously not used to process information …

Normally Germans will not say Maschine to something that does not have a motor (or at least a crank, rotating parts or similar) so they will never say that garden tools are Maschinen.

Instead simple tools (such as garden tools) are normally called Gerät bei Germans.

|improve this answer|||||
  • +1 for the engineering definitions, which are odd, but common in some fields. – Janka Oct 28 '16 at 22:27
  • Also note Maschine is often used for motorbike by motorbike enthusiasts and for jet by news people. Wegen des Streiks der Fluglotsen konnte keine Maschine abheben. – Janka Oct 28 '16 at 22:35
  • And I think Rechenmaschine is called that way because the really old ones had a crank shaft, rotating parts (cylinder head, carburettor, spark plugs etc etc. [^.^;]) – Janka Oct 28 '16 at 22:43
  • 1
    "simply mix up these three words" - but still, these words are not completely interchangeable. I for one couldn't imagine a native speaker (even though they have not studied engineering sciences!) call an electric shaver Maschine, although probably everyone would agree it's a Gerät. – O. R. Mapper Oct 29 '16 at 12:50
  • For sheep, dogs, it's Schermaschine, but Scherapparat is common, too. – Janka Oct 29 '16 at 13:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.